By Simone Weichselbaum/NY DAILY NEWS
New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center is hiking rents in subsidized housing it provides to blue collar workers in an effort to squeeze them out, residents say.
Scores of maintenance men, security guards and other lower-wage employees pay under $1,000 a month to live in apartments on tree-lined streets near the Broadway facility while rent for new residents is at market rates nearly twice as high.But the (sort of) free ride is ending.
“It’s nasty what the hospital is doing to us,” said plumber Curtis Downes, 50, who has lived in his W. 170th St. studio since 1995. His rent is $942 a month and has increased each year by about 4%.
Now Downes is being kicked out — he says because he simply complained that his neighbors were too noisy.
“They are looking for reasons to kick us out, the people who have been here for 20 years,” he said. “Back in the 1990s this neighborhood was full of drugs. And we stuck it out. Now they are trying to kick us out. This is how they are treating us.”
Workers said prices jumped only slightly every year until the hospital brought in a new management company, Cushman & Wakefield, in 2011. Now the company wants 9% more in rent.
New York-Presbyterian owns 20 apartment buildings in Washington Heights, and a dozen more buildings near its Cornell Weill Medical Center on the upper East Side.
New York-Presbyterian and Cushman & Wakefield declined to comment on its housing practices.
About 60 of Washington Heights workers huddled with state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Washington Heights) Friday asking for help.
“I am committed to finding a solution that protects the buildings’ longtime low-income tenants, who have been a vital part of the hospital and our community,” Espaillat said.
Officials from the hospital workers’ union, Local 1199, also plan to help the employees.
“I waited on a waiting list to get this apartment,” said food service staffer Renee Schaeffer, 52, who pays just $1,000 for a one-bedroom flat on W. 165th St. She said the price will soon jump to $1,090 a month — but it would more than double if she moves out.
“If you don’t work for them (the hospital), and you retire, you have to move out. They are not treating us right,” Schaeffer said.
Many blue-collar workers at the hospital make $50,000 per year, meaning that their subsidized housing costs less than one-quarter of their salaries — a luxury in Manhattan.